Ursuline Sisters across the globe celebrate the Feast of Saint Ursula on the 21st of October each year. Ursula was one of the early saints who inspired Saint Angela Merici as she was discerning the founding of her Company in 1535.

Our resource pack is divided into three sections for use in the classroom in preparation for the feast day.






The Legend of Saint Ursula

Angela was a woman who travelled, listened, prayed, observed and was open to the influences of her day. Following the founding in 1440 of the Gutenberg press, books for the first time became widely available and very popular. Amongst the most significant of the books in circulation during Angela’s youth was The Golden Legend – a medieval bestseller telling the lives of the saints! Angela’s father regularly read from it to his family. It is probably here  that Angela first heard of Ursula and Catherine of Alexandria – two important shapers of her spirituality and vision, an inspiration reinforced by much of the art work of her time.

So who is Ursula? Where did she come from? Why are we Ursulines? Why do we celebrate Ursula’s feast day? Read on to find the answer to these questions.

According to legend St. Ursula was the daughter of a 5th Century Christian King in Britain. She was a beautiful, intelligent, outgoing and friendly girl. Ursula was deeply spiritual and at an early age had dedicated herself to God, deciding to remain a virgin because of her love of Christ.

At that time young girls did not choose their own husbands, their parents decided whom they would marry. A powerful pagan king requested of Ursula’s father that she would marry his son Ethereus. The pagan king sent ambassadors to Ursula’s father offering large sums of money and other promises if the marriage took place. Ursula’s father was very afraid for three reasons: he was afraid of the violent reaction of the other king; he didn’t think Ursula would agree to marry; and both he and Ursula would prefer a Christian marriage.

Much to her father’s surprise Ursula, inspired by God in a dream, agreed to the marriage but only on certain conditions:

  • Each king should put at her disposal ten girls.
  • Each girl was to be accompanied by another thousand girls.
  • The kings were to provide ships for a journey.
  • Ursula was to be granted three years to dedicate herself to God.
  • The young prince was to receive Christian instruction for baptism.

Ursula actually thought the proposal would be withdrawn on these conditions – but no, the king agreed and Ursula’s demands were carried out immediately!

Young people began arriving from all directions to join the voyage. During the journey, Ursula converted all the girls to Christianity and soon they arrived in Cologne, Germany. Here an angel appeared to Ursula and told her that she and all her companions would return to this place and win the crown of martyrdom. They moved on to Rome and Pope Cyriacus asked to join Ursula’s group. They set out to return to Cologne. Back in Britain, Etherius also decided that he would join them.  All met up in Cologne where they encountered the aggressive Huns who were interested in women for pleasure only. Ursula and her young girls resisted this violation. Julius, leader of the Huns, instructed his army to kill them all, including Etherius and the ex-pope Cyriacus. Julius decided not to kill Ursula as he thought she was so beautiful he wanted to marry her. Ursula firmly refused his proposal because she wanted to keep the promise she had made to God to remain a virgin. Julius was so enraged he threw an arrow towards her, which pierced her heart and killed her. And so legend tells us, Ursula and her companions were martyred in Cologne.

Angela Merici founded the Ursulines in 1535 in Italy. At that time the story of Ursula was very popular and people would have heard it, been inspired by it and prayed to Ursula. While in Venice Angela would surely have been inspired by Carpaccio’s wonderful paintings of Ursula’s story. Angela was calling young women to live a life of virginity and to be of service to others. She chose Ursula as a role model for herself and her companions and so still today we are known as Ursulines. Just as God called Angela and her companions he still invites women of today to say yes to the call to dedicate their lives to Him in the spirit of Angela Merici.





Section Two: Activity and Discussion ideas



In your class introduce a discussion on one or more of the following themes:

  • Respect for self and others
  • Role of women in the family, in society
  • Attitudes to people of other races, creeds
  • Marriage – choice of partner or arranged marriage
  • God’s call to each person
  • The call to Religious life
  • What is martyrdom?  Look up the story of other martyrs
  • Angels, messengers of God

Creative Ideas

Invite students to be creative in telling the story of Saint Ursula – here are some suggestions…

  • Express the legend as a picture image.
  • Collect images from nature that could be incorporated into a prayer time.
  • Go on a search for art images of Ursula (art books, paintings, pictures, stained glass windows, statues in convent/school …)
  • Invite an Ursuline Sister to come to your class and to tell the story of her call to be a sister
  • Write a poem/prayer/song or create a dance to tell the story…
  • Dramatise the story of St. Ursula – you could use this as an assembly on the feast day
  • Write a letter to Ursula
  • Create a comic strip of the legend
  • Search the web for Ursuline connections.
  • hhtp://www.kfki.bu/~arthp/ for the ‘Stories of the life of St. Ursula’ – paintings by Carpaccio. These are kept on permanent display in the art gallery in Venice.

Why not share your creativity with others – invite your local Ursuline community to see/hear or share in your creativity

Second level schools could share their telling of the story of Saint Ursula with the local Ursuline primary school

As a class you could combine the telling of the story in music, song, dance, art etc… into a prayer service for Saint Ursula’s day… you could invite other students or parents to join with you in celebrating the patroness of the Ursuline Sisters.





You may wish to celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Ursula with Mass or other liturgy.

Here are the suggested prayers, readings, and hymns for Mass. They can also be used for a liturgy or Prayer Service combined with some of your own creative ideas prepared in section two.


Mass for the Feast of Saint Ursula

Opening Prayer

Lord fill us with the spirit of courage which gave your martyr St. Ursula strength to offer her life in faithful witness to you. May we who celebrate the life of St. Ursula be loyal to the faith which she professed. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen

Suggested Readings


Old Testament:

  • Wisdom 3:1-9
  • Song of Songs 8:6-7
  • Hosea 2:16-17; 21-22
  • Psalm 21
  • Psalm 115
  • Psalm 116
  • (Psalm numbering as given in the New Jerusalem Bible)

New Testament

  • 2 Timothy 2:8-13, 3:10 -12
  • 1 Timothy 6:11b-12
  • Philippians 1:27-30
  • Philippians 3:10-11
  • Ephesians 5:1-2
  • 1Peter 4:13-14

Gospel readings

  • Matthew 16:24-27
  • John 12: 24-26
  • Matthew 5:13-16
  • John 15:18-21
  • Mark 16:15-20
  • Luke 5:1-11
  • Mark 1: 14-20

Prayers of the faithful

On this feast of Saint Ursula we pray that we will have the courage in our own lives to stand up for our Christian beliefs and be true followers of the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Lord hear us. R/

We pray that more women will be inspired by the lives of St. Ursula and St. Angela and say yes to the invitation to commit themselves to the Ursuline way of life.

Lord hear us. R/

O God, you have inspired many people to follow Jesus who gave His life that we may have life. Bless all people who suffer persecution for the sake of the Gospel today.

Lord hear us. R/

We pray for Ursuline sisters throughout the world that you Lord will be with them and bless them in their lives and ministries.

Lord hear us. R/

We remember today all who have died – members of our families, our friends, past students, staff and sisters of this community, and all who have inspired us in any way. May they rest in peace.

Lord hear us. R/


Concluding prayer

O God, you called St. Ursula and her companions to the ultimate sacrifice of life itself. Grant that our lives too may be a constant surrender in faith to the demands of your love, through Christ our Lord. Amen

Music suggestions

Hymn to St. Ursula

Here I am, Lord
On a journey               by Liam Lawton
Do not be afraid

I will be with you wherever you go

Like the dear that yearns for running streams

Christ be our Light

Sing to the mountains, sing to the sea

If God is for us, who can be against